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George Eastman House announces new executive director

This October Dr. Bruce Barnes will take the reins at the photo and film museum


Thursday afternoon the George Eastman House announced the appointment of its new director at a press conference held on the front steps of the East Avenue mansion. Dr. Bruce Barnes will serve as the 8th Ron and Donna Fielding Director of the George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film starting in October.

The announcement punctuates a year-long international search for a successor for the previous director, Dr. Anthony Bannon, who retired in May of this year. The decision to select Dr. Barnes was arrived upon unanimously by the board of directors and search committee.

"We believe he is going to be a transformative leader," said James A. Locke III, member of the museum's board of trustees and chairman of the search committee. Locke added that Barnes is "uniquely qualified" for this job, given his talents and experience, which transcend the fields of finance and the arts.

Barnes is the president and founder of American Decorative Art 1900 Foundation, a private foundation based in New York City that works both independently and collaboratively with museums across the nation to foster understanding and appreciation of American decorative art from the period around 1900, per a provided statement. Barnes is also co-author of "The Jewelry and Metalwork of Marie Zimmerman" and co-published the award-winning "The Artistic Furniture of Charles Rohlfs," which accompanied an exhibition of the same name co-organized by his organization.

Dr. Barnes lived in Rochester from 2000 to 2004, when he served as chief executive officer of Rochester-based Element K, and has held senior executive positions at Ziff Communications Company, Ziff Brothers Investments, Wasserstein Perella & Co., Reservoir Capital Group, and QFS Asset management.

As was the case with Dr. Bannon, Dr. Barnes is a passionate scholar and will bring that energy to the table. "The house and a great many of the museum's objects fall precisely within my longstanding interest in American art, decorative, and architecture of the period from 1876 to 1940," Barnes said in a provided statement.

The new director expressed his excitement to begin his work exploring "new ways to interpret the George Eastman House," expanding the ways in which GEH can serve the community, and reestablishing the museum in its position as a global leader in the fields it pursues. Particularly, Barnes is concerned with spearheading "an ambitious traveling exhibits program," increasing collaborations with other institutions, and raising national and international focus on the scope of the collection through a more extensive online presence.

"My background in innovative online education will be invaluable to the creation of a virtual museum that will provide global access to its superb collections," Barnes said.

The museum's "integrity and commitment to the community" drew Barnes to compete for the position of directing it, he says.

"George Eastman House is an international treasure, a source of local pride, and a complex organization," said Thomas H. Jackson, chairman of the museum's board of trustees, in a provided statement. "In Bruce Barnes, we have found the perfect individual to continue the museum's progress and build local, national, and international infrastructure and connections that will be essential to Eastman House's future."